It’s June in the college hockey world, and the Stanley Cup was just raised, which means that until the the NHL makes its newest draft picks and we see some more schedules drop, there’s just not a whole lot to talk about in the college hockey universe. So we’re going to take this time to break down our latest 2023-24 Northeastern Hockey roster projection (available for reference in the recruiting portion of the site) and take an early look at what will soon be the Huntington Hounds. As always, it is important to note that the roster page is always subject to change, whether that be projected enrollment of a recruit or addition of a late transfer. We will update with new information as it comes to light.
Forwards: Matt DeMelis (Gr), Liam Walsh (Gr), Gunnarwolfe Fontaine (Sr), Alex Campbell (Sr), Michael Outzen (Sr), Justin Hryckowian (Jr), Matt Choupani (Jr), Cam Lund (So), Jack Williams (So), Anthony Messuri (So), Eli Sebastian (Fr), Dylan Hryckowian (Fr), Andy Moore (Fr), Billy Norcross (Fr)
Let’s get this out of the way now. 1. We never get the projected lines right 2. We’re going to be wrong again 3. We’re going to talk about them and justify them regardless. Moving on.
The biggest loss for NU at forward during the offseason was, of course, Aidan McDonough graduating off of the first line to join the Vancouver Canucks. Captain Justin Hryckowian, the reigning Hockey East Best Defensive Forward, will continue to center the first line for every game he’s healthy. Lund, Fontaine, and newcomer Alex Campbell will almost certainly be the three wingers fighting for, and probably cycling through, the two remaining spots on that line. Fontaine needs no introduction to Huskies fans, returning for his senior year and wearing a letter after scoring both of Northeastern’s goals in their triumphant Beanpot Final last year. Lund ended the year on Ritzy’s other wing but will be challenged by Campbell, a senior who had 30 goals over the last two seasons at Clarkson.
Overall, there’s no McDonough on this roster but this first line is as good of a first line as any and could easily draw parallels to the 2019 Hockey East and Beanpot winning first line featuring upstart center Tyler Madden alongside experienced wingers like Patrick Schule, Liam Pecararo, and Brandon Hawkins. Speaking of that 2019 team, Campbell will be looking to become the first impact top line forward transfer for the Huskies since Hawkins and Pecararo joined that team by way of what is now known as the transfer portal.
Filling out the middle six behind the top four forwards is a cast that will include graduate returnee Liam Walsh, veteran wingers Matt Choupani and Jack Williams, and freshmen Eli Sebastian and Dylan Hryckowian. Walsh, a former transfer from Merrimack, will look to continue to grow at NU after coming on strong in the second half of his first season as a Husky. Choupani and Williams are both players that we here at the blog love watching every night, with Choupani scoring 10 goals last season in limited ice time and Williams, a future Northeastern captain in our opinion, notching 17 points in a great freshman campaign.
The two freshmen joining them both should immediately fill the lineup voids made with the the departures of Jack Hughes and Sam Colangelo, with Sebastian scoring 48 points in his first and only USHL season to lead the Green Bay Gamblers to a 32 win season and Dylan Hryckowian following in the footsteps of his older brother in Cedar Rapids en route to a 26 goal and 65 point campaign that justified his selection as the 2022 prep player of the year in New England. Sebastian will be a center for the Huskies while Hryckowian mostly played on the right wing in the USHL but may find himself on the left side more often at NU in search of additional ice time early in his career.
The roster is completed down the middle by Matt DeMelis, who returns to Notheastern for a fifth year after finishing last year in the top six for Jerry Keefe’s squad in a desperate attempt to get production from a spot that was usually filled by Jack Hughes, who struggled through long stretches of the season to produce consistently. DeMelis will in all likelihood become the runaway record holder for the most games played in the history of the men’s hockey program next season.
Alongside are two more freshmen, Andy Moore played both center and wing in Cedar Rapids alongside the younger Hryckowian, where he was the RoughRiders’ captain while notching 21 points last year while missing 15 games due to injury. Billy Norcross was a lineup staple for the BCHL’s Penticton Vees, who decimated the BCHL from start to finish last year en route to a 50-3-1 (yes, 50-3-1) record and an uneventful playoff victory. Norcross notched 25 points for the Vees in the regular season despite playing in a defensive role. Both players bring a heavy, 200 foot game that will play well on the walls and in front of the crease. Returnees Outzen and Messuri round out the Huskies’ forward group.
Much was remarked and embellished online about the losses from the Huskies roster, but in my opinion their top nine can stand up to any in Hockey East from a depth perspective, and if the vacated scholarships allowed NU the opportunity to bring in Campbell, Sebastian, and Hryckowian this season, over time this offseason has a good chance to be seen as a great one for NU. They’ll be searching for players to rise up and replace the goals that McDonough and Colangelo would have scored in the past, but opportunity will be ample for Fontaine to lead the team in his final year of collegiate hockey and there are big time roles that are prime for the younger forwards to take too. The lineup has a good mix of seniors and grad transfers to lead the way and freshman to learn from them, and should be the start of the next new generation of stars on Huntington Ave.
Defense: Pito Walton (Gr), Matt Staudacher (Sr), Braden Doyle (Jr), Hunter McDonald (So), Jackson Dorrington (So), Vinny Borgesi (So), Kyle Furey (So), Michael Fisher (Fr), Nolan Hayes Fr)
The Huskies return a trio of sophomores on defense in McDonald, Dorrington, and Borgesi who were baptized by fire last season as a rash of injuries left them as basically the last defensemen standing for the Huskies for a good portion of the fall. As we now know, that period of the season left the Huskies in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of, despite the best effort of the trio of players who had less collegiate experience combined than most of the individual players they lined up against.
McDonald is the reigning Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman and could affectionately be referred to as a shot blocking monster, looking every bit the part of a future Philadelphia Flyer. Dorrington was forced to play on the right side nearly all of last year thanks to Northeastern’s lineup construction and should find a familiar home and place to grow in a return to his natural left side of the ice for his sophomore campaign, while Borgesi showed flashes of his skill from the blue line as a freshman and will look to take the next step as well.
They’re joined by in the top four by Pito Walton, a graduate transfer from Princeton who was among the top defensemen in the ECAC last year and will play at the top of the lineup in his lone season for NU much like Tommy Miller did a few seasons before him, though Walton seems to bring significantly more of an offensive skillset to Boston than Miller.
Filling out the every day lineup on the left side should be Matt Staudacher, a senior transfer who redshirted last season for Minnesota after playing in 96 games his first three years. Freshman Michael Fisher, a third round NHL draft pick and NU’s best incoming defenseman prospect in the Keefe era, is one of the best skaters on the blue line in his age group but is still recovering from a knee injury that cost him nearly the entirety of his lone USHL season. Fisher slots into the third pairing with Staudacher while Braden Doyle returns to the role he held last season for NU before missing the final month of the season due to injury.
Freshman Nolan Hayes joins the Huskies following a short campaign where he scored nearly a point per game for West Kelowna of the BCHL, with 15 points in 18 games, and Kyle Furey rounds out the blue line for NU. Hayes was a former teammate of Hunter McDonald for the Omaha Lancers before both were traded a few years ago.
Cameron Whitehead (Fr), Connor Hopkins (Sr), Grant Riley (So), Harrison Chesney (So)
There is no point burying the lead here. There’s no replacing the best goaltender in the history of collegiate ice hockey, but unfortunately, Mike Condon, Jerry Keefe, and Cameron Whitehead are going to have to try. Devon Levi has taken his talents past South Beach and to Buffalo thanks to a trade that the Florida Panthers probably no longer regret thanks to their 2023 playoff run, and his two Richter Awards have left alongside him.
The heir to the royal throne is a Golden Knight. Whitehead, a fourth round pick of Vegas in the 2022 NHL draft, led the USHL in shutouts last season, and was also near the top of the league in games/minutes played, wins, and saves while posting a top-10 save percentage and GAA. Nobody else is Devon Levi, but the Huskies will be fine in net as their goaltending factory churns forward into a new era.
Three goaltenders are currently projected to join Whitehead on the roster, with Connor Hopkins joining NU following an injury filled Yale career while the two returnees from last season slot in as well. This may change before October, as most teams don’t carry 4 goaltenders, but for now that is the list.
Overall, it’s hard to know what the Huskies really look like without Devon Levi after he played all but 60 minutes last season, but there’s no denying the talent that looks to be a part of this Northeastern roster. With a solid top nine up front, a defense primed to take a step forward, and injections of veteran leadership from the portal everywhere you look, Northeastern will be in the conversation to get home ice again in Hockey East, defend their Beanpot crown, and perhaps finally even win the game(s) in the last weekend of March that continue to elude them. There’s a long summer still to come before the team takes the ice and until then, we’ll have a deeper look at the newcomers for Northeastern as the season edges closer as well as following the future of NU when a new batch of players become eligible to commit on August 1.